The air was hot, hot enough to suck your breath away the minute you walked outside. The sun beat down on her as she got out of the car and stepped into the light. Her boyfriend got out of the driver’s side, yelling at her about some slight he perceived her to have committed. She tuned him and out and walked into the store. She sighed in relief as a blast of cold air from the air conditioner hit her. Closing her eyes for a moment, she inhaled the heady scent of hay and small animals that permeated the feed store.

They were there to pick up supplies for their dog. The local feed store had better options than the grocery store, and the price was significantly less than the Mom and Pop pet store downtown. She walked to the section with the dog food. Her boyfriend, trailing behind her, listing all her faults with his usual gusto. She saw people looking at them, but she ignored them and her boyfriend. She was growing weary of his unfounded jealousy and abusive nature.

Turning a corner, she was suddenly yanked back by her arm. Then, twisting her upper arm and pulling her close to his chest her menacingly ground out, “Are you listening to me?”

“I am trying not to,” she responded. He squeezed her arm tighter, pulling her through the isles towards the door. She cried out in pain.

“Let her go.” One of the employees stood between them and the door.

“Mind your own business,” her boyfriend ground out between clenched teeth. “I need to teach this bitch a lesson.” She winched as he once again dug his fingers into her upper arm. Usually, people ignored him. No one had ever come to her defense before. She waited for the employee to back off and let them pass, as they usually did. She wasn’t looking forward to being smacked around once they got in the car. Yet, this man was not backing down.

“I said, let her go.” He had dark hair and hazel eyes. They looked like they were usually friendly, but right now, they were spitting fire. He was shorter than her boyfriend but more muscular, likely from the physical labor of his job. She knew her boyfriend would not stand up to him for long. Deep down, he was a coward, backing away from men who confronted him but happy enough to knock her upside the head when she angered him.

The men continued to glare at each other while she was trapped in between, fingers bruising the tender flesh of her upper arm. Finally, her boyfriend leaned down to whisper in her ear, “Is this your other boyfriend, you whore.”

“I’ve never seen him before in my life,” she cried out as he shoved her toward the man. She stumbled into the stranger who caught her easily.

“Keep her. I am sick of her anyway,” he muttered. “Fat whore,” he spat out. The hatred in his eyes terrified her as he stormed through the door. She heard the car’s engine rev up as he peeled out of the parking lot. Taking a deep breath, the tears started to spill from her face; she hadn’t realized the stranger was still holding her. People were staring at her. She was trapped and didn’t know where to go.

“Come with me,” the stranger said. Disoriented, she followed him. He took her to a back room away from the prying eyes of the other customers. Kneeling, he took a handkerchief from his pocket and gently wiped the tears from her face. “My name is Wayne. What is yours,” he said?

“Tia,” she replied quietly. She looked into his eyes. He didn’t seem threatening. No one had ever stood up for her before. Most people just turned their backs like nothing was happening when her boyfriend started abusing her. “Why did you help me,” she asked?

“No one should be treated like that,” he said. “You’re safe now. Do you have somewhere to go?”

“Not really,” she said. “I am sure he’ll be there, waiting for me, when I get home. I’d rather not go to my parents.”

“I get off in 30 minutes. So why don’t you wait here, and we’ll figure it out after my shift. Okay?”

She looked at him more closely this time. She could see the concern in his eyes, and his face was kind. A feeling of safety washed over her for the first time in her life. She intuitively knew she could trust him.

“Okay,” she replied. He smiled as he turned to leave. “Wayne,” he turned back to her, his eye questioning. “Thank you.”

He smiled, and her heart skipped a beat as it lit up his face. Then, he walked back towards her and cupped her cheek in his hand. “You’re welcome, Tia. We’ll sort this out. ” And with that, he walked out of the backroom, leaving her there to wonder if her life was about to change for the better.

© Copyright 2021, Tina Ruiz, All rights reserved

Tina Short Stories

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